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Dryft tackles tablet typing by miming physical keyboards

Jared Newman | Sept. 11, 2013
Swype revolutionised the keyboard experience on Android phones, and now its creator is hoping lightning will strike twice with his new Dryft virtual tablet keyboard

mobile keyboard

If the number of people who strap keyboard cases to their tablets is any indication, the typing experience on large touch screens still needs major improvement.

Dryft, a company co-founded by the original inventor of Swype, thinks it can help. The company has devised a software keyboard for tablets that mimics the way you type on physical keyboards, and claims that users can reach up to type up to 80 words per minute with the software.

Dryft's big trick is the ability to tell when your fingers are resting on the screen, versus when they're typing, by tapping into the tablet's accelerometer and touch sensors. Instead of popping up in a static location, Dryft's keyboard appears around the location of your resting fingers. This supposedly prevents users from having to feel for the keys. Dryft also adapts to the user's typing style and uses language modeling to reduce errors along the way.

Of course, it's impossible to know how well Dryft works without actually using it, but it's encouraging that Randy Marsden, the original inventor and co-founder of Swype, is a co-founder of Dryft along with venture capitalist Rob Chaplinsky. Swype's software keyboard, which interprets the words you want to type as you pass your fingers over each letter, works phenominally well, and the concept of "gesture typing" is now standard on most new Android devices.

Dryft is pursuing a similar business plan to that of Swype, in which it makes deals with device makers to pre-load the keyboard on their tablets. In the meantime, tablet users can sign up for a beta version of Dryft, though the company has given no release date.

Strangely, the sign-up form lets users select Android or iOS as their preferred platform, even though Apple doesn't allow third-party software keyboards on the iPhone or iPad.


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